Ancient Greek Nomos and Modern Legal Theory: A Reappraisal
Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy 2021 (Forthcoming)
13 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2021 Last revised: 24 Nov 2021
Date Written: August 23, 2021
Recently, two books have appeared that venture to re-investigate modern legal theory's ancient Greek underpinnings. In both books, the notion of nomos plays a central role. Firstly, Thanos Zartaloudis has published a remarkable study in which he delves into the manifold meanings of that ancient Greek word. Zartaloudis offers us an extraordinarily rich analysis of the polyvalent forms and uses of nomos from the age of Homer up to the days of Socrates – the classical period in which nomos would finally come to acquire its sense of an enacted legal norm (‘law’) or binding social convention (‘custom’). Secondly, nomos is of central importance in Johan van der Walt’s recent book on the intertwined modern notions of liberal democracy and the rule of law – referred to by Van der Walt as the concept of liberal democratic law. For Van der Walt, the analysis of ancient Greek nomos and its long and tortuous reception history in western thought is crucial for a proper understanding of what the modern concept of liberal democratic law entails and how it could be saved for the future.
Keywords: nomos, rule of law, liberal democracy, Carl Schmitt, Homer, Pindar, Thucydides, Sophocles
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